What happened to Bears running back-by-committee, run-based offense in Week 1?

What happened to Bears running back-by-committee, run-based offense in Week 1?

One weekly amusement — or bemusement — with the Bears offense of Marc Trestman was how the weekly commitment to running the football was typically gone by halftime, sometimes by the end of the first three-and-out series, regardless of score.

So it was curious that the Bears of John Fox, which ran the football a respectable 46 percent of their offensive snaps, last Sunday in Houston called nine running plays to 16 pass plays in the first half. The result was a 14-10 halftime lead with the help of a 54-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery and a 19-yard TD pass to Eddie Royal.

Running back Jeremy Langford had eight of the nine first-half rushes, Ka’Deem Carey one, and Carey would get none at all in the second half. Langford managed a paltry 2.8 yards per carry, not the kind of production that sustains a run game ultimately.

In the second half Langford upped his production to 3.9 yards per carry, with nine rushes. Carey, the other half of the “committee” that Fox has traditionally favored for his backfields’ approach, did not see the football.

Meanwhile, the Bears were calling 20 pass plays in the second half, four of those ending in sacks.

“I thought the first part of the game, the first half, we did what we needed to do,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Second half, I didn't think we got as many opportunities. I think that comes from not converting on third downs and lack of execution in the second half.”

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear here]

The Bears did convert just two of eight third downs in the second half.

But Loggains’ may have contributed to the mounting troubles in the second half with play-calling. The Bears gave the ball to Langford on seven consecutive first-down plays in the second half, which netted five, minus-1, 15, seven and four, six and minus-1.

While the commitment to the run might be found in that kind of play selection, the potential for predictability was obvious.

Fox, however, indicated that some of the problems lay, not with Loggains nor a newly formed offensive line, but perhaps with Langford not getting what was there for the getting. Langford himself acknowledged that he needed to do more with what the offensive line created for him.

“Well, I think we blocked up some runs pretty well,” Fox said. “That’s not an easy defense to run against, but I think there were some yards there, yards after the carry, I mean, yards after contact.

As far the non-committee approach, “I think the fact that we only ran it 20 times,” Fox said. “[The Texans’] per carry was 3.7, just like ours. The difference was they ran it 35 [times],we ran it 20, so the time of possession, that usually plays into that.”

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”